Touted as the most-anticipated cultural event of the year on Matsu Island, “Baiming (擺暝) took place in February and saw the diaspora of local residents return to their hometown, along with international tourists, to attend an event that reflects the faith of the traditional fishing village.
Located on the west-northwest side of the Taiwan Strait and closer to China than Taiwan, Matsu has celebrated the Baiming or “Beiman” (in the local Fuzhou dialect), for around a century. The annual event starts with the Lantern Festival, and in 2019 the Ministry of Culture registered the Matsu Baiming Festival as the 21st national intangible cultural heritage.
For the people of Matsu, Baiming is an occasion to celebrate and socialize. It takes place over several days and features colorful lanterns, traditional ceremonies, and lively village celebrations.
Baiming is traditionally held in the evenings at 79 temples and ancestral shrines across Matsu Island, where rich offerings include food, incense, and flowers, to worship the gods and pray for peace. It is a lively event with each temple holding activities such as carrying a palanquin of the deity in a procession, or giving out fortune poems and blessings to believers.
The main celebration usually falls on the 13th to 15th day of the lunar calendar, while some villages celebrate it as early as the 7th day of the lunar calendar. In Longjiaofeng, Qinbi, Village on Beigan Island, the event is held on the 29th day of the lunar calendar.
Baiming activities have their own characteristics, according to the different areas of Matsu Island. The one on Beigan Island is the most traditional and spectacular.
Each year, the main shrine and temple of each village take turns hosting the event, and in 2023, the hosting temple was Yanggong Bashishi Temple (楊公八使宮) in Houwo Village, Beigan Island. The main deity worshipped is Yang Gong Bashishi, a famous Taoist master.
The 2023 Matsu Beigan Baiming Festival comprised six main events, starting with the "Colorful Baiming Lamp Lighting Ceremony" on the 12th day of the lunar calendar, which fell on Feb. 2 this year. The entire village lit diamond-shaped “wind lamps” in Houwo Village, Tanghoudao (塘後道) Beach to start off the event.
This was followed by "burning horse feeding," carrying palanquins of the deity in a procession, feasting at the temple, giving blessings to newlyweds, praying for dreams, and the palanquins joining forces. People followed the pilgrimage and visited the six major temples in Qiaozi village, to pray for good fortune and wealth.